The Iconic Sign
After we landed in Los Angeles we saw one of the most famous attractions on our way to our hotel in Hollywood – LA traffic.  After battling the blocked roads for more than an hour we arrived at our hotel we got settled and then we caught up with our friends from Barcelona, Nallely and Gio who took us out to Korean BBQ.  Having only tried Korean BBQ for the first time in NY (co-incidentally also with friends we met in Barcelona) we were quite impressed.  The best part about it was without a doubt that it was all you can eat!  We spent quite a few hours catching up with our West Coast friends and enjoying an awesome dinner!
Fantasy Castle by Night
The next day Gio picked us up early and dropped us at Universal Studios – Hollywood.  Gio was able to hook us up cheap because he and Nallely worked there (how cool is that).  We spent the day exploring the park that is home to the most sound stages in America.  We started with a studio tour of the back lots that is home to some of the biggest movies and TV series’ produced.  Many different studios use the sets at Universal shooting areas to film many metropolitan scenes with sets that can double as big American cities like New York as well as sets made to look like European cities.
Flooding on the set
As our tour continued we went through a set designed to represent Mexico, and learned the secret of how to make weather in Hollywood.  The secret is shooting water up in the air rather than sideways – as it makes it more natural.  We also got to see how some of the floods are generated in movies.  We drove through the old town square set – better known for the back to the future trilogy. The next attraction was the famous director – Alex Hitchcock – respected as one of the best directors in Hollywood history.
How the real car stunts are done!
The tour also included a couple of interactive experiences including the world’s biggest 3D screen at ‘Skull Island’.  We then discovered how Hollywood performs the most dangerous car stunt sequences (and my dreams were shattered) through the use of sophisticated machines.  I have included photos so for anyone who like I did was impressed with the car stunt sequences in the Fast and the Furious, consider this a spoiler alert.
The roof is falling in
We drove through a subway station set that was so live they hadn’t cleared the cameras from filming yet.  This station was like no other as it was hit by an ‘earthquake’ and literally collapsed around our bus!  It was remarkable – another example of something the photos will tell the story of!
After our tour concluded we wandered out into the park to explore some of the rides.  Many of them were extremely impressive simulations, utilising motion simulators and 3D effects to give a great experience to those of us riding.  The most impressive was the Transformers 3D ride that had a brilliant movie related plot and stunning effects and movement to create an awesome ride!  It was sweet!
The forgotten stars of Hollywood
After hitting all of the rides in the morning, we stopped to grab a bite of lunch in the Hard Rock Cafe right next to the park.  This iconic American restaurant certainly lived up to its reputation as we enjoyed a solid lunch!
In the afternoon decided to check out some of the shows that were being run at Universal Studios.  First stop was the performance by the special effects team that gave us an insight into how some of the effects that we see in the movies actually happen.  We learned the secrets to some of the animation in movies and the painstaking process that it can be to shoot all of the frames for those movies – frame by frame.  We also got a look at how perspective is sometimes used to play tricks on the cameras and on us, as well as the popular green screen effects, where the production team can add in the footage after both scenes have been shot.
The Tree Universal Studios Tree
The next show that we saw was an amazing display of water, fire, and explosions and it was great.  We saw stunts performed on Jet Skis, performers dive off incredible heights into water.  It was incredible.  We checked out the animal actor’s show that highlighted some of the famous but lesser known animal stars.  Their tricks were extremely impressive, and most of the animals that are used are rescue animals that spend years in training.  The last show for the day was the show to celebrate the beginning of Universal Studio’s Grinchmas.  Despite the hour long wait was a wonderful scene re-enacted from the movie.
After enjoying the show we met up with Gio and Nallely who took us out for dinner to a local Mexican restaurant that was really good.  After enjoying some tasty food, a few drinks and good conversation we retired to our hotel (turns out theme parks are exhausting!).
A real 747 crash site just for the movie!
The next morning we took a bit of a sleep in to recharge and ventured out to explore Hollywood, first making a stop at the world’s most popular observatory – Griffith Park.  Although I hadn’t heard of it before it was recommended by Gio it was awesome.  They had a brilliant display of life in the universe including their ‘big picture’ display.  The most remarkable thing about this picture that was taken of the night sky was that even though it takes up a full wall it represents a stretch of the sky as small as your finger held 30cm from your face.
A famous town square (missing
a clock)
We also enjoyed some of the other displays, especially the live working Tesla coil, originally designed to be able to wirelessly transmit electricity.  Another demonstration we saw was that of the Foucault pendulum that proves the earth sits on a rotating axis.  This observatory is probably most famous for being a training base for Apollo astronauts.
We enjoyed looking around at the observatory and the different exhibits; it’s certainly something very cool.  After we finished looking around, we headed out to get some lunch and check out some of the more famous sights in Hollywood, although I think we may have misread the directions on the internet because when we got to the ‘classy’ part of sunset boulevard (or so said the map) we were somewhat disappointed.  However after finishing lunch we didn’t have long before we headed to the Staples Centre to watch our first NBA game live.
Griffith Park Observatory
When we got into the Staples Centre we quickly found our seats on the top level of the arena.  We were sitting next to someone who was a pro at spotting the celebrities and pointed out some of the other stars at tonight’s game.  Courtside seats were occupied by Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and David Arquette with the seats we couldn’t see “usually where Di Caprio and those guys sit…”
A few of the stars enjoying the basketball
The actual game was cool LA Lakers were taking on the Utah Jazz.  It was really fast paced and a great atmosphere especially towards the end of the game when the result was in the balance.  We saw the skill of the players who could consistently nail there shots for 3!  The half time entertainment involved several fans trying their skills to try and win cash, including one guy shooting for $85K from half court.  As the game entered the second half Utah started to pull away until the last quarter when the Lakers fought back.  The margin got to within 7 points which was when the crowd really got involved cheering and chanting but a few missed baskets sealed the result.  I was surprised to see the players stop ‘playing’ and start shaking hands with 20seconds still on the clock.  This was a little surprising, but it was cool to see some of the stars of the NBA play, in particular Kobe Bryant.
NBA Action
The next morning we started early and were forced to hire a car in order to get to the happiest place on earth – Disneyland.  As we were spending 2 days here we decided to tackle 1 park per day, with the first being the California adventure.
These theme parks are certainly not age restrictive, with California Adventure being the more extreme of the tow as it included 2 roller coasters.  Jumped into some of the rides the popular Soaring over California, as well as the Toy Story ride, and managed to beat the 2 hour wait for the Cars ride which was pretty cool!
The World of Colour Spectacular
After enjoying several of the bigger rides at the park we started to check out some of the shows and exhibits, we got an insight into how movies like toy story were developed and filmed which was quite interesting.  We also wandered into the main theatre to see a cast re-production of Aladdin which was quite good.
Michelle realising just how wet she is
going to get, Gio having a ball, and this
photo caught me just about to say something,
I cant remember what tho…
As night set Michelle tackled the biggest roller coaster in the park as I sat and enjoyed the lights of the park at night.  That night we stayed for a truly breathtaking lights and water show – World of Colour.  This was unbelievable, there are images projected onto water sprayed out of fountains to create an amazing spectacle.  The effects in this show were just incredible.  Check out the photo’s that I have included, if anyone wants to see more photos of this incredible show, let me know because I took so many shots the show was that amazing.
Gio, Nallely, Michelle and James
My love of roller coasters…oh wait
After enjoying day 1 at Disneyland, plus having the advantage of having a car, we headed to our local Wal-Mart to check it out.  It was quite impressive bigger than any of the stores that we have at home and selling literally everything.  It is almost a case of if they don’t sell it, you probably don’t need it.  For us we were most surprised to see the guns just sitting on the shelf in the same plastic packaging that we use to wrap toys in.  But we also saw a remarkable selection of toys, clothes, electronics, plus a fully equipped supermarket.  It was huge!
Beauty and the Beast
The next day Gio and Nallely picked us up early and took us to get some breakfast at International House of Pancakes, a cheap and surprisingly good place to start the day, especially a long day at t a theme park.  We then headed to Disneyland (they hold annual passes – one of the perks of living in LA).  We enjoyed a great day hitting all of the big and popular rides, Space Mountain, Indiana Jones (a few times), as well as the Pirates of the Caribbean and all of the others!
The rides were more interesting and fun that the rollercoaster’s, many of them being simulated experiences or adventures.  We managed to avoid the long waits and still caught the parade as well!  We also were able to score a quick photo with the celebrity mouse Mickey as well.
We enjoyed a great day with Gio and Nallely going to all of the rides and shows.  On the way home we grabbed some dinner trying for the first time In and Out burger before saying good –bye and putting forward our last pitch to come and visit us in Melbourne.
The funniest things that I saw in LA.
Amsterdam is probably the city best known for Marijuana, however when walking and driving through LA I can honestly say that I smelt more weed here than i did in The Netherlands!  I was somewhat surprised but we were told that anyone with an easy to get medical card can buy weed for ‘medicinal purposes’….Peculiar.







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